Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Groundwater from perennial springs provide refuge from wildfire impacts in mountainous semiarid watershed.

Abstract

Warming temperatures, earlier snowmelt, and the elongation of dry seasons are contributing to the propensity for more frequent and severe wildfires in semiarid, mountainous watersheds, which act as source watersheds for communities, especially in the southwestern United States. Research on how vegetation and water sources will respond following wildfires in these watersheds is critical for water resource, land, and forest managers. Little research has been completed on the effect of groundwater discharged from springs on revegetation of burned forests. We test whether springs, as perennial sources of water in semiarid watersheds, have the potential to protect roots and seeds from being damaged and facilitate the regrowth of native vegetation in areas affected by wildfires, thereby creating zones of fire refugia and mitigating the propensity for floods, erosion, and incursion of invasive species. The effect of springs on revegetation is studied in the Asaayi Creek Watershed located in the Chuska Mountains, NM/AZ, and in the Royal Gorge Park located near Cañon City, CO. In the Asaayi Creek watershed, remote sensing imagery and ground surveys show that springs facilitated revegetation following a June 2014 wildfire. Post-fire time lapse photography reveal more abundant vegetation around springs and more diverse vegetation in areas where there are multiple springs. Significantly higher Enhanced Vegetative Index (EVI) values are observed around perennial springs in the Asaayi Creek watershed and also around intermittent springs in the Royal Gorge area, one year after wildfires occurred in each study area. However, the revegetation around the perennial springs in the Asaayi Creek Watershed is widespread compared to Royal Gorge. There are multiple perennial springs that are clustered close together in Asaayi Creek Watershed, and only three intermittent flowing springs are located in the Royal Gorge burn area. Springs in the Asaayi Creek watershed provide a critical source of water that directly impacts soil moisture near the springs and in turn, protects roots and buds allowing native vegetation to regenerate.